Environmental Law Research Guide

Provides an overview of federal and state sources related to environmental law, including water law.

Federal & State Codes

Titles related to environmental law can be identified using the table of contents of federal and state codes. However, a subject index is the most efficient method to find individual water laws in federal and state codes, as it allows you to use subject keywords to find specific code sections. Subject indexes are available in print codes and in legal databases. In addition, if you need to find all code sections resulting from a specific enacted law, use a popular name table. This type of table identifies specific code sections that were created or amended by specific sections of an enacted law. Federal popular name tables are available on Westlaw, Lexis, and the Office of Law Revision Counsel's website. Below is an example of the table from the Office of Law Revision Counsel for the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1996.

A screenshot of the Office of Law Revision Council's Table III Tool showing the cross references of the sections of a public law to individual U.S. Code sections.

State codes also utilize popular name tables. In Westlaw, a state's popular name table is located in the related "Tools & Resources" materials on each state's code page. Lexis does not provide popular name tables for state codes. For publication sources of state statutes, see our individual state research guides.

Where to Find Federal Statutes

For an introduction to statutory research, see our Statutes Research Guide guide. The following is a list of sources for the full text of federal laws:

Compiled Federal Legislative Histories

ProQuest Legislative Insight is the Library's primary resource for compiled legislative histories. This databases allows for keyword searching through the full-text documents of an entire compiled legislative history.  You can search by public law or statutes at large citation or by popular name.

In addition, there are compiled legislative histories available in HeinOnline:

Federal Legislative Documents

A complete collection of federal legislative documents dating back to the first Congress can be found in ProQuest Congressional.

A listing of freely available federal legislative materials collections can be found under Free Sources of Legislative History on our Free and Low Cost Legal Research Guide.

Statutory Research Tutorial

Includes videos covering topics "What are Statutes and Where to Find Them," "Anatomy of a Code," "Finding Statutes Online," "Finding Statutes Using Print," and "Updating and Currency."

Multi-jurisdictional Research: 50-State Surveys

Fifty-state surveys track a single topic across the statutes (or regulations) of all 50 states.  They usually take the form of a state-by-state table or chart containing the citations to the laws on the given topic in each state, but generally contain little-to-no analysis.  A 50-State Survey will not be available for all topics, but, if there is one, it can serve as a valuable starting point when conducting multi-jurisdictional research on a topic. Check each of the below sources to see if there is a 50-state-survey already compiled for your topic. (Note the date of any 50-state-surveys you find; some updating may be required.)

Note that you can sometimes find multi-state surveys or multi-state issue-trackers online, such as on the websites of law firms or organizations that are interested in tracking specific topics across jurisdictions.  For example, the National Conference of State Legislatures also often has multi-state surveys for statutes or legislation (bill-tracking, etc.) on select topics.

Finally, American Law Reports (ALRs) also track a single, narrow legal issue across all U.S. jurisdictions. They typically include substantive analysis and useful research tools (such as a Table of Laws and cross-references to other secondary sources and research tools). ALRs are available on both Westlaw and Lexis.